Corroded Martian southern highlands

Corroded Martian terrain in the southern highlands
Click for full image.

Today’s cool image is another example of strange terrain on Mars that is difficult to explain, though one can make some guesses. The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on May 29, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and shows an area in a region dubbed Aonia and located in the southern cratered highlands directly south of Valles Marineris.

This spot is in the high mid-latitudes, 55 degrees south. In the northern lowland plains one would expect to see a lot of evidence of ice, either as debris covered glaciers in craters or flowing off of mesas, or in an underground ice table that is revealed from impacts and other events that caused it to melt temporarily in the past for a brief instant.

No such features are apparent in this image however. In fact, the photo seems to show a very dry place, with the surface almost all hard bedrock that has been eroded to leave behind rough and sharp features. That a significant amount of erosion has occurred here is indicated by the pedestal crater near the image’s top. When its impact took place the topography was higher. Since then the ground around this crater has been worn away, with the mashed material under the impact at a higher density and more resistant to erosion.

If this spot has an ice table or any buried glacial material, it is not obvious, and certainly not revealed by this erosion.

The two square boxes indicate two insets that I have only cropped to show them at full resolution, and are posted below.
» Read more

Minor FBI official pleads guilty of altering evidence in Russian collusion hoax

Yawn: The so-called Durham investigation into the effort by high-level FBI and Justice Department officials to misuse their power to try to overthrow the election of President Trump has gotten its first guilty plea, that of a minor FBI lawyer who had altered evidence in order to help justify the FISA warrant against Carter Page that made possibly the political spying on the Trump campaign and administration.

Clinesmith was charged in federal court in Washington D.C. with one count of making a false statement for altering information he had received from the CIA in June 2017 to hide the fact that Trump campaign official Carter Page was a source for the Agency. The alteration caused the Justice Department to make a false representation to the FISA Court that approved surveillance of Page for nearly a year, the criminal information filed by Durham states.

Clinesmith “did willfully and knowingly make and use a false writing and document knowing the same to contain a materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statement and entry in a matter before the jurisdiction of the executive branch and judicial branch,” the court filing said.

The statement Clinesmith’s lawyer released to the Washington Post is especially laughable:

“Kevin deeply regrets having altered the email. It was never his intent to mislead the court or his colleagues as he believed the information he relayed was accurate. But Kevin understands what he did was wrong and accepts responsibility,” the lawyer told the Post. [emphasis mine]

“It was never his intent.” What a bald-faced lie. Clinesmith was told by the CIA that Carter Page was a source of information for them. He then consciously changes the words in a CIA email (which stated as much) so that it stated the exact opposite. This faked evidence is then included in the warrant request presented to the FISA court to justify spying on Page, and the Trump administration. If the FISA court had known Page was a CIA source, the entire FISA warrant request, as written, would have made no sense, and would have been denied.

Regardless, while it is good that this guy has plead guilty, he is small potatoes. Unless some of the big fish get fried — such as James Comey and Andrew McCabe and maybe even Barack Obama — this investigation is junk and the first administrative coup attempt by an unelected bureaucracy will go unpunished, guaranteeing more such coup attempts in the future.

Or to put it even more bluntly, since the administrative state is tightly aligned with the Democratic Party, it will become impossible for anyone from any other party to ever gain power ever again. For even if they should win an election, that administrative state will quickly move to remove them, under false pretenses, knowing it will not be punished for voiding a legal election.

A more hopeful take would be to say that Clinesmith has struck a deal and is going to provide the information necessary to indict these big fish. Recent history has not born out such hopeful takes, however, as the Justice Department, under Republican rule, even under the Trump administration, has routinely failed to follow through in this manner. Instead, they scapegoat the people at the bottom (maybe), and then make excuses for those in charge.

We shall see.

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SpaceX begins first tests of Starship’s thermal tiles

Link here. They have already flown some tiles on both a Dragon cargo flight as well as Starhopper’s one flight. They are now accelerating the work by testing the installation of a lot of hexagon-shapped tiles directly onto the steel hull of the Starship prototypes. From the article:

Behind the scenes, SpaceX is assuredly performing extensive laboratory-style tests with tiles and an agreement signed with NASA Ames Research Center confirmed that the company is using the facility’s arcjet to physically simulate the conditions of orbital-velocity reentry. Tests on the scale of a full Starship, however, are an entirely different story.

The first signs of large-scale heat shield installation testing appeared on July 9th when local resident and photographer Andrew Goetsch (Nomadd) captured photos of a test coupon covering half of an entire steel Starship ring. In April 2020, CEO Elon Musk confirmed on Twitter that the current design involved affixed heat shield tiles directly to Starship’s steel hull with steel studs. It’s unclear how exactly the company is installing steel studs directly onto the ~4mm (0.15 in) thick skins of a pressure vessel or if an off -the-shelf solution was available but Nomadd’s July 9th photos explicitly show the process required to refine the settings on the mystery stud installer.

The article has some good pictures. Expect to see a lot of these tiles on the surface of future prototypes.

Ivashka and Baba-Yaga

A evening pause: An entertaining animated cartoon from Soviet Russia, 1938. It subconsciously reveals much about Russia’s rough society of that time between the world wars. Even in the 1930s Russia was still largely an illiterate peasant culture, less than three generations since the freeing of the serfs and now ruled by Stalin and the communists with an iron hand.

Hat tip Jim Mallamace.

Leaving Earth cover

In March I obtained from my former publisher the last 30 copies of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. I quickly sold 10, and with only 20 left in stock I am raising the price. To get your own autographed copy of this rare collector's item please send a $75 check (includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to
 

Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652
 

I will likely raise the price again when only ten books are left, so buy them now at this price while you still can!


  Also available as an inexpensive ebook!
 

Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, is now available as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 


Winner of the 2003 Eugene M. Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society.

"Leaving Earth is one of the best and certainly the most comprehensive summary of our drive into space that I have ever read. It will be invaluable to future scholars because it will tell them how the next chapter of human history opened." -- Arthur C. Clarke

Catastrophes on Mars and Earth

Big rock break in Kasei Valles
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on May 13, 2020, and shows what appears to be a giant block that at some point was attached to the cliff, and then broke off and fell away to the north. Subsequent erosion over the later eons widened the break until it now looks like a canyon.

Sounds great, but the event that separated this big piece of mountain, almost a mile across, from its cliffside was possibly even more catastrophic. And it might not have involved a sudden break and fall, but something more spectacular, and also still impossible based on everything we know about Mars.

Uncovering what really happened at this spot on Mars will not only help us understand the geological history of the Red Planet, it could also amazingly enough help illustrate the cultural shifts going on right now on Earth, and how to shift them in a more rational and sane direction.

This image is located near the outlet of Kasei Valles, one of the larger valleys draining downward from the Tharsis Bulge where Mars’ giant volcanoes are located. The overview map below shows us what Kasei Valles looks like in this area.
» Read more

UAE to establish full diplomatic ties to Israel

Big news: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has agreed to recognize Israel and establish full diplomatic relations, in exchange for Israel’s promise it will not annex portions of the West Bank that the Oslo Accords reserved for Israel, as it has been considering doing.

The UAE is the first Gulf nation to recognize Israel, and the third Arab nation, after Egypt and Jordan. This agreement signals publicly the growing secret ties and alliances within the Arab world with Israel that have developed in the past decade, most especially since Trump became president.

It also signals the growing weariness in the Arab world of Palestinian intransigence to any real negotiations. No matter what deal is offered them, no matter how good, their fundamental position remains the same: Israel must be destroyed (including all the Jews living there).

The deal also illustrates a fundamental split in the Islamic Middle East, between the allies of Iran (where chants of “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” are encouraged by the government) and those more aligned with the U.S. The former apparently like the idea of war and genocide, while the latter are working to avoid both.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.


He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.
 

Engineers recharge Ingenuity’s batteries on its way to Mars

Engineers have successfully completed their first in-flight maintenance recharge of the batteries on Perseverance’s small test helicopter Ingenuity.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter received a checkout and recharge of its power system on Friday, Aug. 7, one week into its near seven-month journey to Mars with the Perseverance rover. This marks the first time the helicopter has been powered up and its batteries have been charged in the space environment.

During the eight-hour operation, the performance of the rotorcraft’s six lithium-ion batteries was analyzed as the team brought their charge level up to 35%. The project has determined a low charge state is optimal for battery health during the cruise to Mars.

They plan to do these partial recharges about once every two weeks during the trip to Mars to keep the battery charged the optimal amount.

About a month after Perseverance has landed in February 2020, it will find a large flat area to deploy Ingenuity, then move away. The helicopter will then begin a 30 day test program to see if it will be able to fly in the very thin Martian atmosphere, only about 1% as thick as Earth’s.

Giant impact covered almost half of Gandymede’s surface

Artist's illustration of Ganydmede
Click for full illustration.

The uncertainty of science: Computer modeling and a review of images taken by Voyager 1 and 2 and the Galileo orbiter of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede now suggest the existence of a giant impact so large that it covers almost half the moon’s surface.

The artist’s illustration of Ganymede on the right, based on our presently incomplete set of global images, shows this impact area as the circular dark region.

Many furrows, or trough formations, have been observed on the surface of Ganymede, one of the Jovian moons. This research group comprehensively reanalyzed image data of Ganymede obtained by NASA’s Voyager 1, Voyager 2, and Galileo spacecrafts. The results revealed that almost all of these furrows appear to be arranged in concentric rings centered around a single point, indicating that this global multiring structure may be the remains of a giant crater. The radial extent of the multiring structures measured along Ganymede’s surface is 7800 km. For comparison, the mean circumference of Ganymede is only 16,530 km. If correct, this is the largest crater yet identified in the Solar System. The previous record holder with a 1900 km radius is on Calisto, another Jovian moon.

The conclusion reached here is very uncertain, since we really do not have a high resolution global map of Ganymede. All three spacecraft were only able to send back a scattering of high resolution images. The global map is based on Earth observations and images from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Betelgeuse dimming caused by outburst

The uncertainty of science: According to new data from the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers are now proposing that the dimming seen earlier this year in the red giant Betelgeuse was caused not by a known variation cycle or by a large starspot moving across its surface, but by an large outburst of material, thrown out from the star.

Ultraviolet observations by the Hubble Space Telescope suggest that the unexpected dimming was probably caused by an immense amount of superhot material ejected into space. The material cooled and formed a dust cloud that blocked the starlight coming from about a quarter of Betelgeuse’s surface.

That we now have three creditable but different theories, all based on evidence, for explaining the dimming that occurred from October 2019 to April 2020 suggests that we really still have no idea what specifically caused it. All three theories however are based on what we do know about Betelgeuse, that it is giant blobby gasbag that has dark starspots on its surface, that has giant convection cells that bubble up from below and release material periodically, and that it pulses in a variety of cycles predictably over time.

It could be any of these phenomenon that caused last year’s dimming, or even a combination of two or more. The information available so far is just too sketchy to pin this down more precisely.

The four companies (one a Chinese government operation) aiming for first orbital launch in 2020

Link here. The three private companies are Astra, Firefly, and Virgin Orbit. The fake Chinese private company is Expace.

Of the four, only Firefly has not yet attempted to launch, and in many ways remains the dark horse in this competition, coming out of bankruptcy to become reborn with a new investor. All three of the American private companies however have made it clear they intend to launch before the end of the year. The Chinese company’s plans are unknown (not surprisingly). Astra will be first, with its next launch attempt set for later this month.

OSIRIS-REx completes closest sample grab rehearsal

OSIRIS-REx yesterday successfully completed its closest sample grab rehearsal, bringing the spacecraft about 131 feet from the surface of the asteroid Bennu.

The approximately four-hour “Matchpoint” rehearsal took the spacecraft through the first three of the sampling sequence’s four maneuvers: the orbit departure burn, the “Checkpoint” burn and the Matchpoint burn. Checkpoint is the point where the spacecraft autonomously checks its position and velocity before adjusting its trajectory down toward the event’s third maneuver. Matchpoint is the moment when the spacecraft matches Bennu’s rotation in order to fly in tandem with the asteroid surface, directly above the sample site, before touching down on the targeted spot.

Four hours after departing its 0.6-mile (1-km) safe-home orbit, OSIRIS-REx performed the Checkpoint maneuver at an approximate altitude of 410 feet (125 meters) above Bennu’s surface. From there, the spacecraft continued to descend for another eight minutes to perform the Matchpoint burn. After descending on this new trajectory for another three minutes, the spacecraft reached an altitude of approximately 131 ft (40 m) – the closest the spacecraft has ever been to Bennu – and then performed a back-away burn to complete the rehearsal.

During the rehearsal, the spacecraft successfully deployed its sampling arm, the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), from its folded, parked position out to the sample collection configuration. Additionally, some of the spacecraft’s instruments collected science and navigation images and made spectrometry observations of the sample site, as will occur during the sample collection event. These images and science data were downlinked to Earth after the event’s conclusion.

The actual sample-grab-and-go attempt is scheduled for October 20th.

The short video below the fold shows spacecraft as it makes its closest approach. From the youtube page:
» Read more

Endeavour at Cape, being prepped for next flight

Capitalism in space: Endeavour, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule that was the first to fly two astronauts to ISS, has now arrived at the company’s facility at Cape Canaveral, where it will be inspected, refurbished, and prepped for its next manned flight in the the spring of 2021.

SpaceX teams at Cape Canaveral will remove the exterior panels from the Crew Dragon spacecraft, and begin inspections to assess how the spacecraft weathered its 64-day space mission, according to Benji Reed, SpaceX’s director of crew mission management. “We want to make sure that we kind of dig deep and understand everything that’s gone on with this vehicle, make sure we’re really ready to go, and then do some of the aspects of the refurbishment,” Reed said. “There are some things that we will replace, some things that are standardly replaced, some things that we want to upgrade based on lessons learned, or that were already planned in work.”

SpaceX will still need to build a new trunk for each Crew Dragon mission. The trunk is an unpressurized module mounted to the rear of the Crew Dragon capsule, providing electrical power with solar arrays, and radiators to maintain steady temperatures inside the spaceship.

I guarantee the company will use what it learns in this inspection to improve later Dragon manned capsules. Right now they plan on from 5 to 10 flights per capsule. Since their contract right now only calls for six flights, that likely means the company only needs to build at most three to cover this NASA contract. However, NASA is certain to extend that contract, since six flights will only cover about two to three years, and ISS will be manned longer than that. Moreover, SpaceX has at least two tourist flights booked, so that calls for additional capsules as well.

Either way, we must shift our thinking. These might only be Dragon capsules, but they each get a name because each will fly more than once. It is thus appropriate to use that name instead of just calling them Dragon.

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

An evening pause: A short seven minute tour of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

You will never see a museum in this manner. And as they go by, how many of these flying vehicles can you name?

Hat tip David Eastman.

Martian sand traps and elongated dunes

Elongated dunes on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the left, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on June 23, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). I was attracted by the uncaptioned image’s title, “Elongating Linear Dunes at Meroe Patera.” What are elongating linear dunes?

The photo shows two such dunes, stretching out to the southwest away from the pile of sand that abuts the cliff to the northwest. Unlike most dunes, which usually form and travel in groups, these for some reason form single straight lines extending for some distance.

I contacted the scientist who requested this image, Joel Davis of the Natural History Museum in London, hoping he could answer some questions about these strangely shaped dunes, and discovered that he was studying this exact subject for a paper since published. As noted in the paper’s introduction,
» Read more

SpaceX prepares sixth Starship prototype for hop

Capitalism in space: Having moved its fifth Starship prototype back to its facility at Boca Chica for repairs to its legs following its first light, SpaceX is simultaneously preparing its sixth Starship prototype for its own hops.

They plan more short hops to smooth out the launch process, aiming for the ability to do several per day, followed later by a much higher altitude hop. Expect the next hop within about two weeks.

Blind Willie Johnson – Dark Was the Night (Cold Was the Ground)

An evening pause: This cover of Johnson’s song is by someone who for some reason doesn’t give his name on his youtube page. Blind Willie Johnson was a gospel singer from the 1920s who had been blinded as a child. If you want to hear him performing his magnificent guitar piece go here. There are no visuals, sadly, which is why I choose this cover, as it is I think important to see the playing to understand how brilliant the piece is.

Hat tip Mike Nelson, who in noting that Johnson’s recorded performance was one of the pieces of music included on the Voyager spacecraft the U.S. sent beyond the solar system, asks, “Is this the behavior of a “systemically” racist society?”

Snapped cable damages Arecibo radio telescope

One of the cables that supports the central platform above the Arecibo Observatory’s giant dish snapped yesterday, damaging the dish and shutting down operations.

The break occurred about 2:45 a.m. When the three-inch cable fell it also damaged about 6-8 panels in the Gregorian Dome and twisted the platform used to access the dome. It is not yet clear what caused the cable to break. “We have a team of experts assessing the situation,” says Francisco Cordova, the director of the observatory. “Our focus is assuring the safety of our staff, protecting the facilities and equipment, and restoring the facility to full operations as soon as possible, so it can continue to assist scientists around the world.”

The radio telescope has not much luck the past few years. It was badly damaged and shut down for a long time after Hurricane Maria in 2017, with repairs from that still on-going.

The edge of Mars’ south polar layered cap

The edge of the Martian south pole layered deposits
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated and cropped to post here, was taken by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on April 10, 2020, and shows the edge of what scientists have dubbed Mars’s south polar layered deposits. The high point, towards the south, is at the bottom, and the terraced layers descend downward to the plains as you move up the image, to the north.

In essence, this spot is the edge of the southern ice cap, though unlike the north polar ice cap, this edge is not the edge of the visible ice cap, but the edge of a much larger field of layered deposits of mixed dust and ice. In the north the ice cap almost entirely covers these layered deposits. In the south the residual ice cap does not. Instead, the layered deposits extend out far beyond the smaller residual ice cap.

The map below provides the geography of the south pole, with the location of this image indicated by the blue cross.
» Read more

TESS completes primary mission

Having now imaged 75% of the entire night sky and completing its primary mission, scientists have now begun the extended mission for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), designed to look for transiting exoplanets.

TESS monitors 24-by-96-degree strips of the sky called sectors for about a month using its four cameras. The mission spent its first year observing 13 sectors comprising the southern sky and then spent another year imaging the northern sky.

Now in its extended mission, TESS has turned around to resume surveying the south. In addition, the TESS team has introduced improvements to the way the satellite collects and processes data. Its cameras now capture a full image every 10 minutes, three times faster than during the primary mission. A new fast mode allows the brightness of thousands of stars to be measured every 20 seconds, along with the previous method of collecting these observations from tens of thousands of stars every two minutes. The faster measurements will allow TESS to better resolve brightness changes caused by stellar oscillations and to capture explosive flares from active stars in greater detail.

These changes will remain in place for the duration of the extended mission, which will be completed in September 2022. After spending a year imaging the southern sky, TESS will take another 15 months to collect additional observations in the north and to survey areas along the ecliptic – the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun – that the satellite has not yet imaged.

So far the telescope has spotted more than 2,100 exoplanet candidates, with 66 confirmed.

All told, TESS has divided the sky into 26 sectors, 13 in the north and 13 in the south. It can only look at one at a time for a month, and scientists use that one month data, collected more than once, to see if there are any changes. Because of the gaps in TESS’s view of each sector, however, it is guaranteed to miss some exoplanets (the majority) whose transits occur when it is not looking.

Imagine if we had 25 more of these space telescopes in orbit, so that each sector could be watched continually. This is totally doable now, and would make it possible to soon create a census of transiting exoplanets across the entire sky.

“The disease may recede, but the stigma lingers.”

Link here. The author notes how his 21-year-old daughter tested positive for the Wuhan virus, exhibited no symptoms at any time, and yet finds now herself too often treated like a leper to be avoided in terror. He then provides a magnificent analysis of this disease’s true threat, which is practically nothing at all when put in proper perspective. Consider just this one example provided by him:

The CDC discloses in only six percent of all coronavirus deaths, “COVID was the only cause” mentioned. For the other ninety-four percent, “there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death.” There were 115,495 fatalities where patients got admitted to the hospital with “influenza and/or pneumonia.” Another 93,393 checked in with respiratory failure, while 35,167 arrived amid cardiac arrest. Yet hospital administrators sign COVID on death certificates one hundred percent of the time. Early on, Dr. Deborah Birx publicized the probability that medical facilities overstate numbers of actual coronavirus fatalities

Of U.S.165,000 casualties attributed to COVID, six percent translates that less than ten thousand fatalities were otherwise healthy.

He also notes this:

Over the past couple of weeks, the media, with lackey doctors Fauci and Gottlieb providing imprimatur, double down on hysteria as for several days, COVID cases spiked above 70,000. Even Republican governors cowed under pressure as many states slow or halt reopening economies. For perspective, for the six-month Oct-April 2020, CDC reports up to 56,000,000 seasonal flu cases. This calculates to over 300,000 per day. Currently, the official COVID count stands just over 5 million. Does anyone, ever, refer our annual flu “tradition” as a pandemic? During the recent case spike, deaths never got above 55 percent of the April peaks.

There’s lots more, if only people were willing to read it and put aside their false terror of this disease. Sadly, they are not. His accurate analysis will fall on deaf ears.

SpaceX to build resort near Boca Chica

Capitalism in space: SpaceX is seeking to hire a manager to lead the design and construction of a resort near Boca Chica for future spaceport customers.

The job posting seeks a manger to “oversee the development of SpaceX’s first resort from inception to completion,” with the ultimate aim of turning Boca Chica into a “21st century Spaceport.” That would include overseeing the entire design and construction process, as well as getting all necessary work permits and regulatory approvals, and completing the ultimate build of the facility.

Makes perfect financial sense, assuming Starship does eventually fly. Customers will need and expect a nice place to stay before and after their flights, and SpaceX has the land and is best positioned for providing it. And even if Starship doesn’t fly, during the rocket’s development there is money to be made providing tourists the best viewpoint for watching test flights, while also creating a source of profit independent of actual flight.

It ain’t the national elections in November that matter

The Declaration of Independence

Much analysis and punditry is on-going in both the conservative and liberal press on whether Trump or Biden will win the presidential election come November. Similarly, those same pundits spend much ink considering the fate of the House and Senate. Will the Republicans retake the House? Will the Democrats retake the Senate?

All important. The fate of our country hangs in the balance, and based on the irrational behavior of the Congressional Democrats these past four years, giving them control of both houses of Congress will not bode well for the nation, especially if the increasingly mentally-incapacitated Joe Biden wins the presidency. Since the 2016 election the Democrats and Washington administrative state have foisted on us a fake Russian collusion investigation and a fake impeachment trial against Trump. They clearly wish to do more. If they win both houses and Trump wins the presidency I predict that within six months they will move to remove him from office, using another set of fake charges but really instigated by their blind hatred of Trump and their refusal to accept defeat in an election.

Even, so these national elections are not the most important elections coming in November. What really will tell the tale for the future is how the elections at the local and state levels play out. For you see, it is those governments by their very actions that give us a peek into the future. What they do will percolate upward with time.

Let us do a quick survey of some of the worst local governments to get an idea who really should be thrown out of office.
» Read more

Cryovolcanism on Ceres still ongoing?

3D simulation of Occator Crater on Ceres
Click for full 3D simulation image.
Click here for animated movie.

According to a new detailed analysis of data from the Dawn mission, scientists are now postulating that cryovolcanism in Occator Crater on Ceres began immediately after impact about 22 million years ago and has continued in fits and starts since.

Occator Crater was formed about 22 million years ago by a large impact. As in many other impact craters on Earth and on other planets, a central peak was formed, which collapsed again after some time. About 7.5 million years ago, brine rose to the surface within the remnants of the central peak. The water evaporated and certain salts, so-called carbonates, remained. They are responsible for the prominent bright deposits we see today, called Cerealia Facula, in the center of Occator Crater. Due to the loss of material in the interior, the inner part of the crater subsided. A round depression with a diameter of about 15 kilometers formed.

In the following millions of years, activity concentrated mainly on the eastern part of the crater floor. Through cracks and furrows, brine also rose to the surface there and produced further bright deposits, the Vinalia Faculae. About 2 million years ago the center of the crater woke up again: brine rose to the surface and within the central depression a dome of bright material was formed. “This process continued up to a million years ago and maybe even until today,” Dr. Nico Schmedemann from the University of Münster summarizes.

This hypothesis is further supported by second paper that proposes there remains a reservoir of salty underground liquid water in the tiny planet’s interior. Both add weight to the idea that any object in space that is large enough for gravity to force it into a spherical shape is going to behave like a planet, with a complex and active geology.

The first paper has a lot of uncertainty, however, centering entirely on its dependence on crater counts to determine age. While providing a rough age estimate, the method depends on many assumptions, is indirect, and could easily be entirely wrong.

Air Force terminates development contracts to ULA, Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman

In awarding ULA and SpaceX exclusive launch rights for all launches through 2026, the Air Force also decided to end prematurely the development contracts to ULA, Blue Origin, and Northrop Grumman aimed at helping these companies develop new rockets.

An issue at hand is the termination of the Launch Service Agreement contracts that the Air Force awarded in October 2018 to Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman, as well as to ULA. The purpose of the agreements was to help Phase 2 competitors pay for launch vehicle development and infrastructure. Blue Origin received $500 million; Northrop Grumman $792 million and ULA $967 million. The funds were to be spread out through 2024, and the Air Force from the beginning said the LSAs would be terminated with those companies that did not win a Phase 2 procurement contract.

Despite political pressure to not end the LSAs, the agreements will be terminated, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition Will Roper said Aug. 7 during a video conference with reporters. “We will work with those two companies to determine the right point to tie off their work under the LSA agreements,” Roper said. The intent of the LSAs “was to create a more competitive environment leading into Phase 2,” he said. “The point is not to carry them indefinitely.”

LSA funds supported the development of Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket and Northrop Grumman’s OmegA launch vehicle. ULA will continue to receive funds for its Vulcan Centaur vehicle.

Almost immediately after the award of these contracts was announced in 2018, ULA and Blue Origin announced one year delays in the development of Vulcan and New Glenn. Apparently, meeting the additional requirements of military’s bureaucracy in exchange for getting the cash slowed development.

Now they won’t be getting a large part of that cash, making the decision to take it a deal with the devil. The delay in development has definitely hurt both companies in their competition with SpaceX. First, it likely has raised the cost and complexity of their new rockets, making it harder to compete in price. Second, the delay has given SpaceX more time to grab more customers while improving its own rockets.

SpaceX initially protested not getting a share of this development money, but has subsequently chosen to no longer pursue such government money for Starship because it doesn’t want itself hampered by obtuse government officials and their mindless requirements.

Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman’s Omega rocket is almost certainly dead. That company took the old big space company approach, structuring development around government cash. Without it there is no R&D money at Northrop Grumman to continue work. Furthermore, Omega was designed to serve only once customer, the military. Without any launch contracts there are no customers for Omega, especially because it likely has too high a launch price.

Thank you for your support!

Readers

My July fund-raiser for Behind the Black is now over. The support from my readers was unprecedented, making this July campaign the best ever, twice over. What a marvelous way to celebrate the website’s tenth anniversary!

Thank you! The number of donations in July, and continuing now at the beginning of August, is too many for me to thank you all personally. Please forgive me by accepting my thank you here, in public, on the website.

If you did not donate or subscribe in July and still wish to, note that the tip jar (below or in the column to the right) remains available year round.

Dentists: Serious health issues from overuse of masks

Dentists are now reporting an upsurge in a range of serious dental issues caused by the overuse and misuse of masks, mandated by government.

The new oral hygiene issue — caused by, you guessed it, wearing a mask all the time to prevent the spread of the coronavirus — is leading to all kinds of dental disasters like decaying teeth, receding gum lines and seriously sour breath. “We’re seeing inflammation in people’s gums that have been healthy forever, and cavities in people who have never had them before,” says Dr. Rob Ramondi, a dentist and co-founder of One Manhattan Dental. “About 50% of our patients are being impacted by this, [so] we decided to name it ‘mask mouth’ — after ‘meth mouth.’ ”

…While mask mouth isn’t quite as obvious, if left untreated, the results could be equally harmful. “Gum disease — or periodontal disease — will eventually lead to strokes and an increased risk of heart attacks,” says Dr. Marc Sclafani, another co-founder of One Manhattan Dental. He says the stinky syndrome is triggered by face coverings since wearing a mask increases the dryness of the mouth — and a buildup of bad bacteria. [emphasis mine]

I have highlighted the big lie, “preventing the spread of the coronavirus.” It can’t be done, no one until June ever thought it was possible, and to claim it now suggests a willful stupidity, a blindness to reality, or a eager desire to trumpet a lie for political purposes.

Meanwhile, the health of Americans will continue to suffer, just as their economic situation and their basic rights under the Constitution have suffered. All based on a big lie.

European health officials: Masks are useless, maybe a health problem

They must be white supremacists! Leading health officials in Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden continue to state that there is no scientific evidence masks can prevent transmission of COVID-19, while there is ample evidence that their improper use can lead to many other heath issues.

Others, echoing statements similar to the US Surgeon General from early March, said masks could make individuals sicker and exacerbate the spread of the virus.

“Face masks in public places are not necessary, based on all the current evidence,” said Coen Berends, spokesman for the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment [Holland]. “There is no benefit and there may even be negative impact.”

The point here is that research into the ability of masks to block transmission of a virus like COVID-19 is presently very unsettled and unclear. However, the evidence that masks, when used improperly (as almost everyone does) can be unsanitary and actual transmission points for disease is well documented.

Under such conditions it is unconscionable for governments to mandate their use.

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